Dog owner advocating for fenced park in Lawrence

Lawrence resident Maureen Bernhagen, who is pictured with her dogs Cosmo, left, and Taza, would like to see a fenced dog park be added to the south side of Peterson Park at the corner of Peterson Road and North Iowa Street. Bernhagen says she has a petition with 375 signatures, which was presented to the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department board earlier this month.

Lawrence resident Maureen Bernhagen, who is pictured with her dogs Cosmo, left, and Taza, would like to see a fenced dog park be added to the south side of Peterson Park at the corner of Peterson Road and North Iowa Street. Bernhagen says she has a petition with 375 signatures, which was presented to the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department board earlier this month. by Nick Krug

Maureen Bernhagen wants a fenced dog park in Lawrence that would be more accessible and safer for dogs and their owners.

She has two small dogs — Cosmo and Taza — and has no place to let them safely romp although Lawrence has two off-leash dog parks.

“There’s a lack of fences,” she said. “My dogs are not well trained to come on command all of the time. They need to be fenced in and with dogs that are similar in size.”

One of Lawrence’s dog parks is the 30-acre Mutt Run established in 2001 below the Clinton Dam. It has a small fenced area that is overgrown with trees, weeds and brush and few, if any, dog owners use it.

Bernhagen said the park is not easily accessible because it’s on the western outskirts of town and most people have to drive to get there.

Lawrence also allows dogs to be off their leashes in Riverfront Park near downtown, but many owners don’t feel comfortable letting their dogs run free so close to the river.

Bernhagen submitted a proposal to establish a fenced dog park to the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department board earlier this month. She said it would be healthy not only for dogs, but for owners.

“People just go for the entertainment factor, just to sit and watch the dogs,” she said. “I think there’s a great social aspect for seniors because they typically can’t let their dogs go loose or walk the terrain that’s out at the Clinton Lake dog park.”

•••

Dog parks are the fastest-growing segment of city parks.

According to a study by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, there were 569 off-leash dog parks in the 100 largest cities in 2010, a 34 percent increase in five years. Parks overall only increased 3 percent in that time.

It’s no surprise to Ernie Shaw, director of Lawrence Parks and Recreation. “There just seems to be a lot of synergy in that area,” he said. “There does probably need to be another in-town, dog park somewhere.”

Bernhagen has proposed locating the dog park at Peterson Road Park, which is 22 acres of undeveloped, city-owned property just west of Hallmark Cards. She said not only did someone from Parks and Recreation mention the site as a possibility, but she thinks the dog park could be an economic boost because it would be located near two hotels. She said it might help attract dog events and shows.

However, Shaw said a master plan for Peterson Park Road completed in 2000 calls for extended parking, rest rooms, picnic areas, an outdoor roller hockey rink and a building that people could rent for gatherings.

“That’s on the shelf and it has been on the shelf for 12 years, and regardless if money popped up tomorrow, we are going to have to go back and revise it,” he said.

Shaw said the board will start looking at possible locations for a dog park in the fall and likely will hold public meetings. He said the location will be the toughest part of the process because some people won’t want it in their backyard and others will.

Then, it will be a matter of cost and where it falls on the priority list with the money that’s available.

The department is making about $20,000 in improvements this year at Mutt Run based on responses to an online survey. Those include: expanded parking, upgrades to the existing shelter, new signage, a dog wash pad and small dog pond. It plans to work on two double-gated fenced areas — one for small dogs and one for large dogs, but Shaw said the timeline depends on money and other projects.

“We are going to look into that and see what the cost is because that was something high on the list,” he said.

Lawrence’s off-leash, dog park called Mutt Run was established in 2001 below the Clinton Dam. The park, which is pictured Sunday, July 29, 2012, will be getting $20,000 worth of  improvements this year, including expanded parking, upgrades to the shelter, new signage, a dog wash pad and small dog pond.

Lawrence’s off-leash, dog park called Mutt Run was established in 2001 below the Clinton Dam. The park, which is pictured Sunday, July 29, 2012, will be getting $20,000 worth of improvements this year, including expanded parking, upgrades to the shelter, new signage, a dog wash pad and small dog pond. by Karrey Britt

Lawrence has an off-lease dog park called Mutt Run below the Clinton Dam. This is the fenced area for small dogs that Lawrence Parks and Recreation department staff plan to clear later this year. Director Ernie Shaw said, "It's kind of overgrown and people don't use it, so this fall we are going to go in there and clean that all up. There's a lot of poison ivy and things like that in this little area and there's a lot of under brush."

Lawrence has an off-lease dog park called Mutt Run below the Clinton Dam. This is the fenced area for small dogs that Lawrence Parks and Recreation department staff plan to clear later this year. Director Ernie Shaw said, "It's kind of overgrown and people don't use it, so this fall we are going to go in there and clean that all up. There's a lot of poison ivy and things like that in this little area and there's a lot of under brush." by Karrey Britt

•••

Bernhagen knows that funding is tight and proposed a few options for raising money: seeking corporate sponsorships, implementing a minimal fee for dog licensing or charging a small fee for a key card assess system to the park.

She has circulated a petition for the dog park and so far, she’s collected 375 signatures. All of them were willing to pay a fee.

“I think that establishing a dog licensing system in Lawrence would be a great way to start because most cities this size do have dog licensing as part of their city ordinance,” she said.

Shaw said a committee discussed a dog licensing fee when Mutt Run was established and concluded that by the time they hired people to handle the licensing fees and to check on dog owners who had permits, the costs would outweigh the income.

•••

Lawrence residents might want to look down the road to Leavenworth’s new Waggin’ Tails Dog Park, which was started by resident Ruie Gibson, an owner of three dogs.

She went to that city’s Parks and Recreation Department board with a dog park proposal and found the board receptive. Gibson said she handpicked a dog park committee that began meeting monthly. Meanwhile, the city offered six acres of land that was centrally located near the Veteran’s Administration center.

“It’s a beautiful tract of land that wasn’t being used that went through the park board and they agreed, and they of course had no funds for it, so we as a committee agreed to start raising money,” she said.

In two and a half years, they raised $30,000, and the fenced dog park opened in June 2010.

Gibson said it was and continues to be a community effort. The Parks and Recreation department maintains the landscaping and provides disposable pet waste bags. A Boy Scout made six benches for the park for his Eagle project, and other benches have been donated in memory of dog owners who have used the park. The committee continues to meet and raise money for park improvements. It sponsors two events each year.

“It is a meeting place for folks who love dogs. We’ve even had a couple of romances,” she said, with a laugh. “You get to know people you never would have. We preach that to the city because it’s something for the people too.”

Waggin' Tails Dog Park in Leavenworth was established in June 2010. It has been a collaborative project between the community and the Parks and Recreation Department. A master gardeners group helped plan and implement a garden at the park's entrance.

Waggin' Tails Dog Park in Leavenworth was established in June 2010. It has been a collaborative project between the community and the Parks and Recreation Department. A master gardeners group helped plan and implement a garden at the park's entrance.

Waggin' Tails Dog Park in Leavenworth, which opened two years ago, has two double-gated, fenced areas for small and large dogs. The six-acre park also features benches like this one that have been donated in memory of dog owners who used the park.

Waggin' Tails Dog Park in Leavenworth, which opened two years ago, has two double-gated, fenced areas for small and large dogs. The six-acre park also features benches like this one that have been donated in memory of dog owners who used the park.

Three years ago, Riley County Parks and Recreation established a fenced dog park in Manhattan's Fairmont Park. It has agility equipment and dog fountains.

"We've had good feedback on it and it's been pretty popular. It's getting a lot of use," said Greg Lund, parks supervisor.

Meanwhile, Chuck Deprima, parks planner for the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department is working on the city's next fenced dog park. Deprima said he is working on a design and seeking an active citizen group to help with the park. He said the park's success depends on people's ability to self police.

"Right now, I am just doing a lot of research and analyzing some land in the city, and then I am going to start reaching out to some of those folks to see what they are willing to do," he said.

Riley County Parks and Recreation Department opened a fenced dog park three years ago in Fairmont Park in Manhattan. The dog park cost $48,000, which included materials and labor costs.

Riley County Parks and Recreation Department opened a fenced dog park three years ago in Fairmont Park in Manhattan. The dog park cost $48,000, which included materials and labor costs.

The fenced dog park in Fairmont Park in Manhattan features water fountains for dogs.

The fenced dog park in Fairmont Park in Manhattan features water fountains for dogs.

The fenced dog park in Fairmont Park in Manhattan features agility equipment. Riley County Parks and Recreation opened the dog park opened about three years ago.

The fenced dog park in Fairmont Park in Manhattan features agility equipment. Riley County Parks and Recreation opened the dog park opened about three years ago.

•••

On Thursday evening, Marie Piasecki and her husband, Matt McCaskey, visited Lawrence’s Mutt Run for the first time. They had adopted a 6-month-old dog named Bosco from the shelter just six days earlier.

The couple said they enjoyed walking along the paths in the large park instead of crossing a bunch of streets in town, but they couldn’t let Bosco off his leash yet. He is just getting to know them and learning to respond to his name.

“I like the idea of a fenced-in area just because then you know they are not going to find a rabbit or chase a whatever, but get out of sight and then all of a sudden they are halfway across the county line or something like that. Definitely, the fenced-in ones are really nice,” she said.

Bernhagen, who helps organize Lawrence's annual Dogtoberfest, said she's still waiting to hear back from the Parks and Recreation board members on what the next steps might be, if any.


DOG PARK EFFORT

Maureen Bernhagen has submitted a proposal to the Parks and Recreation board to establish a fenced dog park in Lawrence. If you are interested in learning more or joining the effort, contact Bernhagen at dogparklawrence@gmail.com.

Tagged: dog park, Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department

Comments

Robert Rauktis 2 years, 2 months ago

This is a good idea. So the 375 petitioners and Ms. Bernhagen can pool their money for materials and have, I'm sure, the expertise, to erect such a fence. And the taxpayers who cna invest time and money in a leash and discipline won't have to bothered. Come to think of it...this would be a good project for an school district bond issue.

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parrothead8 2 years, 2 months ago

Exactly. Dogs that are not well-trained shouldn't be at the dog park off a leash, and having a fence won't guarantee that her dogs are only hanging out with dogs that are similar in size.

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tanaumaga 2 years, 2 months ago

I advocate you train your dogs to listen to you....and enjoy the two dog parks we already have. Everyone else has to drive across town to get to the park...it's not ideal, but at least we have two parks.

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grtnrse 2 years, 2 months ago

Sheesh - such holier than thou attitudes! Far be it that any animal respond differently than trained, most humans do! And did you hear that all 375 were willing to pay? Make that 376 when you add my name to it. I have a golden retriever that is well trained and comes when called but add a couple of squirrels to the mix and his instincts are in and training is out. And yes, you can send me some link to help me find someone to extricate the instinct out of my retriever. But I would still really like to have a large, fenced area to let him run and play without the fear of him becoming distracted and running off while chasing down a tennis ball. Topeka, Leavenworth and Manhattan have done it - can't be that difficult and expensive. If I subsidize a place for John, Jane, Bobby and Susie to play soccer and baseball and basketball and swim, a fenced in area for me to play with my dogs isn't an outrageous cost if I'm also willing to pay a fee to help offset the cost as they do. I'll be emailing Maureen.

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patkindle 2 years, 2 months ago

“My dogs are not well trained to come on command all of the time. so that is our fault and our legal responsibility because your dogs cannot behave and your not able or willing to take the time to train them next thing, we will have to pay for the neighbors bratty kids

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mom_of_three 2 years, 2 months ago

My dog comes when i call him, but if he sees a squirrel or a rabbit, then he gets distracted. Just like people and kids when something more interesting is around. I can understand people wanting a fenced in dog park. and walking a dog on a leash is nothing like letting him run loose off leash. We have a large yard luckily, but have taken them occasionally to the dog park to play with other dogs and more wide open spaces.

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 2 months ago

I interviewed Aynsley Anderson, community educator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, about the health benefits of dog parks for the owners. She said not only does it have physically benefits but mental health benefits as well. Here's what she had to say, "I think the whole socialization thing is just so key to preventing depression which is a big problem in seniors, particularly those who live alone."

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Leslie Swearingen 2 years, 2 months ago

I have a cat, but I do love dogs. I would like to know why it is that some people who are walking their dogs are so offended if you want to say hi to the dog and pet him/her. I am not going to hurt the animal. I was walking downtown the other day when I found myself eye to eye with a dog, I kid you not, his head was on a level was mine, but he just looked so sweet that it would have been impossible to be afraid of him. I petted him and gave him a kiss on the forehead. Have no idea what breed it was.

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parrothead8 2 years, 2 months ago

Some people don't want you to do that because their dogs may not react well, are in the process of being trained, or are very protective of their owners. You may not mean harm, but dogs don't know the intentions of a stranger. If you stopped and reached for my dog's face, there's a good chance he'd bite you and I don't want that to happen. That's why I walk him on a leash and tend to move him away from children while we're out walking.

I'm glad you like dogs, but you should really ask the owner if it's okay to pet the dog before doing so. You'd never walk up to someone's baby and kiss them or hug them without asking the parent, would you? Please don't do it to my dog.

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Langlois 2 years, 2 months ago

Go back to the 375 who signed the petition, assess each $100. You'll have $37,500 to build your own doggie thing and leave the the rest of us alone. Why should those of us who cannot afford dogs pay for those unwilling to pay for their own.

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patkindle 2 years, 2 months ago

so what about a cat and dog friendly park? or a dog and stupid people park i admit i have gotten so fat, i need two dogs to walk, since one isnt enough so i feel for all of these dog owners, who are too lazy to work with their animals and make them behave but hey, parents are just as bad with thier kids

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RogueThrill 2 years, 2 months ago

There is a fenced in dog park across from the County fairgrounds on Humane Society property out on 15th. How the hell did you guys miss that?

What else could you want, there are at least 3 of them. The center of the city is business and residential. Of course there won't be any there.

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blindrabbit 2 years, 2 months ago

Too many dogs anyway; biting people, barking all day and night, crapping all over the place, tearing up gardens, intimidating people and other pets. Trade in for cats, if kept inside away from birds and bunnies, none of the above problems!

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Alceste 2 years, 2 months ago

Maureen Bernhagen states: “There’s a lack of fences,” she said. “My dogs are not well trained to come on command all of the time. They need to be fenced in and with dogs that are similar in size.” "

Ummm....why don't her dogs "...come on command..."? Heck, my long dead dog knew here name; what was meant when "FOOD" was spelled (trust me....that always brought her home); what "DOOR" spelled; and a couple of other good words....the best one being "SIC"....and you could speak or spell any of those words.

Why doesn't Maureen Bernhagen have better interaction with her animals such that they know what's she's talking about? Does she not "love" her dogs?

Meanwhile we got us KBrit interviewing Aynsley Anderson, community educator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, about the health benefits of dog parks for the owners. Anderson warbles on about physical enefits but mental health benefits as well. Here's what she had to say, "I think the whole socialization thing is just so key to preventing depression which is a big problem in seniors, particularly those who live alone."

Woppee. Old people don't go to "dog parks" out in the middle of nowhere. Wait......the old people being recruited by the likes of Hugh Carter are after the wealthy, in very good health old people.....oh....wait.....they don't need dog parks.....they got dog spas.

What an absurd topic.

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texburgh 2 years, 2 months ago

This is a good idea. It creates healthy, socialized pets - great for when they are not in a dog park. It creates a great place for pet owners to socialize - good for community building. It is good for the health of the owners and the pets - and don't discount the mental health benefits. And frankly, it reduces the amount of waste that can go ignored on your lawns by irresponsible pet owners.

I would also suggest that not everything needs to be paid for by the city. Obviously the fencing would but many of the inside amenities - benches, shelter areas, signage - make great Boy Scout Eagle projects or Girl Scout Gold projects. Having been connected with both Eagle and Gold projects, I can tell you that they do excellent work and the meet any requirements the city, school, or church put on them.

This is a winning idea all around. Do it!

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Mark Zwahl 2 years, 2 months ago

While the reasoning based on the comments may not be sound, the idea is a decent one. Frankly, I image there's some space in an existing park that could be fenced off, given the little use the parks seem to get (yes, even in cool weather).

As for the article, Karrey, I really appreciated the use of pics of other dog parks for comparison. Seems a nice use of the advantages of the web for journalism. Thank you for that!

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Shane Garrett 2 years, 2 months ago

Here is Topeka and the Bark Park.

Bark Park, Topeka

Bark Park, Topeka by Shane Garrett

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